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joe53
Diamond

Review: Kaspersky Free AV

As much as I've used and advocated for certain free AVs over the years, I could not help but notice that one paid AV suite consistently dominated numerous protection tests, namely Kaspersky Internet Security. The protection scores of KIS were not usually significantly higher than the free AVs, but they were consistently higher. It has achieved the highest award (Advanced +) from AV-Comparatives in every Real-World Protection test since 2009, unmatched by any other AV product, paid or free.

So when Kaspersky recently released a free version of its AV, I had to take it for a spin. I downloaded the latest Kaspersky Free (KF) version [18.0.0.405(b)] from: usa.kaspersky.com/free-antivirus

Requirements

OS: Windows XP or higher
Non-commercial use only
Full system requirements: usa.kaspersky.com/free-antivirus

Test Platform:

Dell Latitude E5410 notebook running Windows 7 Professional/sp1 64-bit, and IE 11 (without add-ons). Intel Core i5 @2.40 GHz, 4 GB RAM, SATA HDD: 160 GB. Real-time protection was Windows software firewall, WinPatrol PLUS and Malwarebytes 3 Premium. All Microsoft and 3rd party  programs/patches were up-to-date.

Results

Download and Installation:

Both processes (154 MB installer) went quickly and smoothly, taking about 5 minutes. The only decisions one needs to make during installation are to select a language, whether to enable the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN)- basically to send anonymized data back to Kaspersky, and whether to enable Kaspersky Secure Connection - a VPN useful to preserve stealth and privacy when connecting via public wi-fi. The latter 2 decisions can be enabled/disabled later from within the program settings. Finally one is presented with a page to register your program and provide Kaspersky with your eMail address. It suggests by its format that this is necessary, but you can in fact ignore it, and back out of that page to complete the installation.

No pre-checked bundled software, default browser or homepage are added. The Secure Connection isn’t operated by Kaspersky itself; it’s a licensed gateway to the popular Hotspot Shield VPN, but is an opt-in option that most would find useful.

What KF adds to your PC is
- 2 Programs (KF and Secure Connection), with icons for both in your notification tray
- 3 Kaspersky services
- 2 Kaspersky plugins in your browser(s), which can be disabled

Immediately upon finishing the instillation, KF automatically ran a Rootkit Scan which took 10 minutes.

Ease of Use:

The GUI is simple and intuitive to use. The home page is a bit cluttered with a few non-functional icons that only remind you of features that only come with the paid version (such as Safe Money, Privacy Protection and Parental Controls) and as such represent the only ads that come with KF. Settings are highly configurable, but in general can be left in the default option by those who wish to keep things simple.

Screenshots of GUI pages:
www.pcmag.com/.../1

One thing to be sure is enabled is the option to "Detect other software that can be used by criminals ..." found in Settings>Additional>Threats and Exclusions. This is NOT enabled by default. Without it enabled you will not be able to detect PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs).

Real-time protection for files, web browsing, IM and eMail can be disabled individually or paused globally. Report logs and Quarantine contents are accessed via the [More Tools] button at the bottom.

On-demand scans available include:
- Full Scan, which took me 25 minutes on average.
- Quick Scan, which took me 2 minutes.
- Selective Scan of individual files via "drag-and-drop". KF is also integrated into Windows Explorer, allowing a scan via the right-click context menu.
- External USB device scan. This can be set to prompt to run on-demand, or to run automatically on device insertion.

On-demand Rootkit Scan is not available. Instead, in its wisdom KF will automatically do a rootkit scan in the background at random times once a day. This was not CPU intensive (about 1-5% usage) and did not appreciably slow my computer or browsing. This daily background scan be disabled in Settings>Performance>Search for software that is intended ... (rootkits).

Scan times are reported here for information only. They are not really a good basis for evaluating or comparing AVs, as the times are subject to too many variables. Suffice it to say that my KF scan times were reasonable and comparable to similar scan types I've seen with MSE, Panda Free, MBAM and MB3 on the same computer. All scan types in KF can be configured individually to scan and detect what you want.

All on-demand scan types can be individually scheduled to run on a regular basis. The default setting is to only run them manually. The malware database is updated automatically several times daily, and can be updated manually prior to an on-demand scan.

One feature worth mentioning is the on-screen keyboard, which can be activated to type passwords without any chance of capture by a software or hardware keylogger. Especially useful for financial websites.

Conflicts

None that I could find. KF plays well with my MB3, WinPatrol PLUS, and the free on-demand scanners HitmanPro and Emsisoft Emergency Kit. You can whitelist any other security product in the Exclusions setting if necessary.

Performance Impact

I noticed no perceptible slowdown of my computing or browsing after installing KF. I also use the FreeCell game as a bellweather - it was just as snappy as ever. (Hardly scientific, but after many years I find it is a sensitive monitor of system performance). In the latest AV-Comparatives Performance tests (May, 2017), Kaspersky Internet Security scored equally as well as Avast/AVG Free in their minimal impact on system performance. I would assume that the stripped down KF would score at least as well as the full-blown suite.

Uninstalling

Start menu, select All Programs -> Kaspersky Free -> Remove Kaspersky Free
In the case of problems with uninstallation, there is a Removal tool (kavremvr.exe) you can download from:
media.kaspersky.com/.../kavremvr.exe
Instructions on how to use this tool are at:
support.kaspersky.com/.../service

Efficay of Protection

Kaspersky claims that KF gives protection against viruses, spyware, phishing & dangerous downloads & websites as does its paid AV and Security Suite. I have no way to test the efficay of any of the AVs I  review, other to subject them to a battery of tests provided at the AMTSO website to ensure security products are configured to protect you from viruses, drive-by-downloads, potentially unwanted applications (PUA), archived malware and phishing and cloud attacks. KF passed all tests (I had to disable MB3 first). You can test your own  AV there at:  amtso.org/.../

I rely on test results from independent websites. Unlike other free AVs I've used and recommended (Avast Free, Panda Free, and MSE/Windows Defender), KF has not been submitted to these sites for testing. One might assume that since the free and paid versions use the same engine and malware database, the protection by KF against these threats should be equal to the paid Kaspersy suite. When I look at the bells and whistles not included in the free AV (website reputation monitoring, anti-spam control, parental controls, webcam and microphone protection, creation of a bootable Kaspersky Rescue Disk, cleaning traces of browsing activity and computer activity, scanning the system for vulnerabilities, and a banking browser to protect online transactions) I think this might be a reasonable assumption under most circumstances. But still an assumption.

Support:

Phone support comes with Kaspersky's paid products only, as with most if not all AVs. Community forum support is available at
forum.kaspersky.com/index.php
Note that this forum is not dedicated to KF. It covers all paid AV products and suites as well as KF.

Tips on configuring and using KF are contained in the knowlege base at:
support.kaspersky.com/.../kfa

Online Help notes are at:
help.kaspersky.com/.../98743.htm

Annoyances

- About once a day I get a nag to register KF, which I continue to ignore. Its only purpose is to spam you with with news of new products.
- The license is only good for 365 days. Presumably one has to renew it yearly, as Avast Free once required.

Summary

I find little to fault with this free AV. It's not as simple as MSE/Windows Defender. It has fewer extra features (and complexity) than Avast Free. It's more user-friendly and allows more local control than Sophos Home. It is most similar to Panda Free in its degree of complexity. Its biggest potential advantage is that it might provide the same excellent level of basic protection as its paid counterpart consistently  does.

I was sufficiently impressed with my trial to also install KF on my desktop workhorse Win 7, which has been protected with only MB3 Premium for the past several months.

As always, YMMV.

_________________________________________


Dell Forum Member since 2,000


 Use OpenDNS   MalwareBytes' Anti-Malware Free


Windows 7/sp1 (64- Bit): Malwarebytes 3.x Premium, Windows Firewall, WinPatrol PLUS, Emsisoft Emergency Kit Free and HitmanPro Free (on-demand scanners), OpenDNS, MVPS Hosts file, SpywareBlaster, Pale Moon web browser, Sandboxie, CCleaner Free.


Windows 10 Pro (64- Bit): Same protection.


"In the future, everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes" - Banksy

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